The FTSE 100 Index lost more ground yesterday in a drifting session as lingering concerns over U.S. earnings weighed on investors.
The top flight eased five points lower to 3925.5 on a day marked by thin volumes as the extended Easter weekend drew nearer.
A two per cent drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday sent Asian exchanges down and hit the Footsie early on, but a modest advance on Wall Street yesterday afternoon helped blue-chips claw back some losses.
Nerves over the U.S. results season were intensified by bigger than expected losses from miner Alcoa, although this was offset by a recovery in crude oil prices and reports that insurance firms could be included in the U.S. Government’s troubled asset protection scheme.
In London, the mining heavyweights which dragged the market down early on recovered some losses and many moved into positive territory. Xstrata lost 4p to 524p, although Vedanta Resources recovered from a weak start to stand 30p higher at 773p.
Crude oil was down to $48 a barrel at one stage but recovered to $50 after figures showing a smaller than expected advance in U.S. stockpiles. Among oil and gas stocks, BG Group shed 35p to 1031p, while BP lost 2.25p to 443.25p.
Financials saw a mixed session, with HSBC down 5p to 437p, despite Goldman Sachs raising its target price. Royal Bank of Scotland also shed 0.5p to 26.1p although Barclays made up some ground lost on Tuesday, edging 0.1p higher to 157.8p.
Other Footsie risers included foods group Compass, the beneficiary of an upgrade from Morgan Stanley after its better than expected results last week. This helped shares gain 7p to 318p, more than two per cent.
Medical devices group Smith & Nephew improved nearly seven per cent or 27p to 450p and British Airways cheered 5.8p to 159.6p.
The quiet corporate diary meant JD Sports Fashion took centre stage with the publication of full-year results. The chain did not disappoint investors as a nine per cent rise in profits and a solid sales update sent shares up 10.5p to 370p after even bigger gains of almost ten per cent early on.
Set-top box maker Pace led the FTSE 250 Index risers board after it said trading this year would be well ahead of previous hopes. Shares soared 42 per cent or 42p to 141.5p.
It was followed by a clutch of housebuilders as investors took a punt on recent recovery signs in the sector.
Taylor Wimpey, which is in the process of sealing a debt restructuring deal, advanced 3.25p to 43p. Redrow added 14.5p to 191p and Barratt Developments cheered 10p to 128.25p.
The biggest Footsie risers were Old Mutual up 4.2p at 58.3p, British Land up 28.25p to 418.5p, Smith & Nephew up 27p at 450p and Land Securities, which gained 28.5p to 516p.
The biggest Footsie fallers were Pearson down 35p at 684p, Thomas Cook down 10p to 240.25p, BG Group off 35p at 1031p and Cairn Energy down 61p at 2074p.